dkSez : : : : : : Don Kahle's blog

Quips, queries, and querulous quibbles from the quirky mind of Don Kahle

Why do people say 'after dark' when what they mean is 'during dark'? After dark would be when it's light again, right? * There are 10 types of people in this world -- those who read binary, and those who don't. * I'm rethinking the whole brown rice thing. What if it's just more white liberal self-hatred? Whole wheat, honey, unbleached flour. All better. Sez who? * Eugene should be HQ for White People for Diversity. We'll fight for diversity to be included in books, which is where we know to look for it. * Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day, but give a man a pillow, and he'll dream of steak. * What can you say about a state that puts the town of North Bend 225 miles southwest of Bend? We rely on visitors for entertainment.

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Racism, Deady Hall, and Tube Socks

February 5th, 2016 · No Comments

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I value traditions because I think everyone should get to vote — not only those who haven’t yet died. I often find myself defending things that others find offensive — Elizabethan Shakespeare, canned cranberry gelatin, University of Oregon’s Deady Hall.

I do believe we should let dead people vote, if only to be reminded that we, the living, are in the minority. Don’t ask me how they make these calculations, but world demographers estimate that the planet has hosted approximately 108 billion humans, not counting the 8 billion who are currently alive. That means the dead outnumber the living, 14-to-1. But hey, we’re the ones doing the counting, so we have that going for us.

Me, I don’t plan to live forever, but I do hope my votes continue to count. History will not always be kind to me and my choices, but I do hope those who come after will take time to understand whatever shaped my point of view. They have my permission to grin empathetically at my silly mistakes.

It’s easy to become outraged when all its defenders have been silenced by death. That doesn’t make it fair, nice, or helpful. Believing we’re smarter and better than all humans who came before us doesn’t make it so. Chronological bigotry is still bigotry.

Why not put that effort into undoing mistakes we’re still making — disposable diapers, Bill Cosby albums, “pets,” college football, lather-rinse-repeat, or tube socks? Whatever it is that will someday embarrass us, only one thing is certain. It will be something we’ve overlooked.

Like tube socks. For millennia, humans have needed something between their tender toes and whatever harsh reality the ground had to offer. Shoes were invented, becoming sturdier and more durable. Eventually, human toes needed protection from the shoes — but only until Barbara Bowerman donated her waffle iron to her tinkering husband.

Socks provided the needed cushion between bunion and boot, making “darn” a good word for centuries. Ask any knitter and they’ll tell you the heel is the hard part. The math for the curve is difficult, and it has to be in just the right place or the sock won’t fit.

Advances in elasticity solved that problem another way. Tube socks could be sold without a heel, making them one-size-fits-all. We love such modern standardizations beyond all reason. Yes, socks suddenly are much cheaper, matching them out of the dryer has never been easier — but they just aren’t as — oh, I don’t know — “socky”.

Tube socks are better only for those who make and sell socks, not for anyone who wears them. Marketers left off the last two words from the phrase “one size fits all.” Maybe it wouldn’t fit so neatly on the packaging, but “one size fits all equally poorly” would be more truthful.

Those who come after us will giggle at our tube socks. Or they won’t, because they’re wearing tube tops. No wait, that’s another mistake we already made. If history is good to tubes, our socks may go unnoticed, complete with the extra fabric that bunches at the top of our instep. But I’m not so sure.

How we treat history will determine how history treats us.

Can we correct the mistakes of our forbears without expunging the identities and perspectives of those who were mistaken? Once history removes every mistake I’ve made, I’m pretty sure the page will be mostly empty. Somebody someday might decide it would be easier to dip the entire page of my life in white-out, unless history later becomes unkind to all things lacking pigment.

Let’s be busy correcting the things that we still have time to correct, but leave alone the mistakes others made before us, choosing to learn from them instead. And by “them,” I mean the mistakes, but also the people.

Fix the mistakes, respect the people. If their mistakes make it easier for us to do the right thing, we should be grateful and gracious — not angry and arrogant.

Keep Deady Hall’s name, teach how slavery once made sense to otherwise good people, and pull up your socks.

==

Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

→ No CommentsTags: Arr-Gee published · Civic · Deep · You-gene

Paean to Rose’s Luxury

January 29th, 2016 · 5 Comments

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There’s almost always a line outside Rose’s Luxury because the gourmet comfort food restaurant doesn’t take reservations. It is in this way similar to Sally’s Pizza in New Haven. As an Italian immigrant state legislator in Connecticut once quipped, “There’s only two foods I stand in line for: Sal’s pizza and Communion.”

I’m not much of a line-stander, so I took advantage of proximity during Snowzilla last weekend. Metro marked the snow days with crawling, then crippled, then closed service. I put on my snow boots and trudged two blocks east. If they were open, this was my chance. They were and it was.

“Do you have seating for one?”

“Not quite yet, but soon!”

I was invited upstairs, where I could order from the bar. The hostess warmly assured me she would “find me” when a seat became available. Ten minutes later, she returned, as if to an old friend. (Sorry, but you just can’t teach that.)

I took my seat at the open kitchen and met Janine, who greets everyone with her “I’ll remember you next time” smile. No uniforms, no name tags, just (seemingly) authentic interest. She asked right away if I had any food allergies or sensitivities, as if she was interested in me more than whatever food I might end up ordering. I said no. She smiled.

The menu is small, so choosing wasn’t difficult. I ordered their Peruvian chicken, then watched the (kitchen) show in front of me. Soon a small loaf of bread (they called it something fancier) arrived, with a generous dollop of infused butter beside it. Then they brought me a small carrot appetizer, as a “gift from my server.” This was not going to be a normal meal.

Before the dinner arrived, I went to the restroom, where restaurants often show their true colors. A small sign by the sink said it all. “Employees must wash their hands before returning to work. Fortunately, we hire smart enough employees that we don’t have to remind them to do so.”

Let’s unpack this departure from protocol for a moment. Health regulations across the country require that this reminder be placed in every restaurant restroom. But the regulation does not always stipulate the font or size (yet), nor does the regulation limit the message. So, brilliantly, management has taken a “yes, and” approach to the signage requirement. They turned the regulation into an opportunity to praise their employees for all to see. Not incidentally, the other placard in the restroom says, “Fuck Perfect.” As far as I know, there is no government requirement for this (but maybe there should be.)

The meal arrived, dressed perfectly. The plate included three dipping sauces: Peruvian spice, jalapeño cilantro, and a spiced mayonnaise. The chicken and very-fancy potato was served beside an orange-and-onion salad. At this point, I stopped tracking the ingredients and surrendered myself to the flavors. The parts yielded to the whole.

I’ve always insisted that I have “a single-digit palate.” I can tell the difference between a two-dollar burger and a nine-dollar burger, but expensive entrees are wasted on me. Now I wonder I’ve eaten only at restaurant knock-offs for my entire life — never at the real thing, until now. That’s how good Rose’s Luxury was.

I was treated well from the start, without exception. The service was comfortable but excellent. The food came quickly, along with surprises before and after. (There was peanut brittle delivered in a shot glass with the check.) I tipped generously, not only because the service was excellent, but because I felt the meal had been underpriced.

Rose’s Luxury serves excellence without pretense. As they remind their bathroom audience, “Fuck perfect.” It’s no wonder that Bon Appetit magazine chose Rose’s Luxury in 2014 as the best new restaurant in America and that the Washington Post’s food critic has named it the best restaurant in the region for the last two years.

Rose’s Luxury is among the half-dozen restaurants closest to my front door. If there’s a better definition of a charmed life, I’d like to hear it.

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Fripperies Galore!

January 29th, 2016 · No Comments

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Fifth Friday Footnotes, Follow-ups and Far-Flung Fripperies:

  • Donald Trump to blizzard-stricken east coast: “Make winter great again!”
  • Even if you never make the same mistake twice, you still won’t run out. There’s an ample supply of new mistakes just waiting to be made.
  • I relive Christmas glee every time I cut open a perfectly ripe avocado. “Oh, yes!” I squeal inside, “Just what I wanted!”
  • Best bumper sticker, spotted on Willamette Street: “Life is like a corndog. I don’t know why. It just is.”
  • How can I be having second thoughts when I don’t recall what the first thought was?
  • Every time I’m choosing between fork and spoon, the fork seems more mature and less practical.
  • Most who drink the Kool-Aid don’t know what they’re really thirsting for.
  • Panic and euphoria: they look the same or they are the same?
  • How did ribs manage to so completely corner the edible slab market? If you want a slab, you’d better like ribs — because concrete is your only other choice.
  • Stephen Colbert’s first episode of “The Late Show” took 151 days of planning. Trevor Noah had 182 days to prepare hosting “The Daily Show.” Once we select a president in November, the first day on the job will be 77 days later. Discuss.
  • If we meet for lunch in Holland, I will gladly go Dutch on the bill. Otherwise, no.
  • You travel too much if your mail is forwarded to Seat 26D.
  • Life: it goes and it goes, seldom in the same direction for two moments in a row.
  • We should have seen trouble coming when they made a verb out of “money.” Whatever we monetize loses some of its value.
  • Never mind your IQ. What’s our WeQ? How well do we share what we know with others?
  • Some university should just post “trigger warnings” on their admission applications and be done with it.
  • I stopped in a store that offers alterations. Their rates were cheaper than my therapist’s. But then I found a more frugal option. The change machine even came with a money-back guarantee.
  • Did you know that full-size beds are over? I shopped for sheets during back-to-school sales and it was hard to find anything smaller than queen-size sheets. I’m sure that means something, but I’m not sure what.
  • When I see a sign that reads “Absolutely No Admittance,” I wonder who put a door there in the first place. But nobody seems to know — there’s been no admittance.
  • Galore is a word that deserves a comeback.
  • Falling and love are intertwined, but what if they’re inseparable? “Reckless” may be the part we can’t do without.
  • Our government has been more willing to regulate lawn darts than handguns. After a few dozen children were impaled at picnics, the United States and several other countries pulled them from retail shelves. Don’t you feel safer, just knowing that?
  • How many brand new voters will Donald Trump attract to the polls this spring? We may soon learn why the silent majority preferred keeping its collective mouth shut.
  • Abraham Lincoln was the first to raise the minimum wage for millions of Americans. He raised it from nothing to something.
  • Nobody asked me, but I think we doze too little and dose too much.
  • A good reporter should be thought of as a professional curiositer — answering questions we may have been wondering.
  • I never noticed until now that Halloween and the 4th of July share the same day of the week each year. Valentine’s Day joins them, except in leap years.
  • People generally are over-polite and under-aware.
  • Whatever happened to hubcaps?
  • If church services were reviewed on Yelp, I’d want to know if there’s a “passing of the peace” and how long it lasts.
  • What would it cost to begin color-coding our street pavement — blue for fast, red for slow?
  • Is there a line between generosity and waste? Yes, there is — except we can’t see it when we’re making our choices.
  • Complaining gives too much credit to circumstance and too little power to character.
  • Lives are like shrifts. They come in only one size: short.

==
Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

→ No CommentsTags: Arr-Gee published · Deep · Grins · Quips

Shoveling Partisanship

January 23rd, 2016 · No Comments

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We don’t know our neighbors the way we did a generation ago. A hardy winter could give us clues that no other season promises to provide.

We used to shop in our neighborhoods, borrow stuff from one another, and worry ourselves sick about what mischief our children might be into together. Now we buy what we need from Amazon, search eBay for stuff we might have borrowed, and sign our children up for non-stop structured activities.

Nothing new to those complaints, but it gets worse. More and more, we don’t even know about our neighbors. We might see a TV glow in their picture window, but what channels are they watching? We might notice their cars disappearing into their garage at night, but without bumper stickers, what does that really tell us? How much can you learn from an occasional polite passerby wave?

Portland tried mandating front porches for all new house construction. Many cities have moved to curtail front-yard fences. New Zealand wonderfully allows any receptacle to be designated for residential mail, allowing plenty of self-expression.

Even the sorts of trash cans set out for curbside pickup could tell you something, but no more. They have been standardized and otherwise “improved.”

As we begin our quadrennial peak political season, and we might wish we knew the leanings of our neighbors. Alas, campaign lawn signs aren’t allowed in Eugene until 60 days before an election. By April, the presidential candidates may be selected, or we may have stopped caring about them.

But we may have an opportunity sooner than that to try to discern our neighbors’ political persuasions. If we’re lucky enough to get a good snowstorm this winter, we can begin to intuit their politics based on how they shovel.

A primer:

Democrats usually will shovel the sidewalk in front of their house first, because they believe that’s what good people should do. Neighbors need safe passage and they outnumber the occupants of any individual building. The commons must be protected and promoted. A quick path from the front door to the sidewalk might be necessary, but only to be sure the mail and newspaper delivery people can find the front door.

Republicans start at the other end, shoveling first their driveway and related private spaces. If they give priority to any public space, it’s likely to be limited to the area where the public and private intersect. As long as everyone can safely reach their car, the rest of the details should work themselves out on their own. Eventually they care for the shared space, but “family first” is central to being a good provider.

Economist Adam Smith could have testified about the power of enlightened self interest, based only on snow removal patterns. Too bad his fabled hand is so invisible — otherwise he could lend it to our shoveling efforts.

Libertarians and socialists don’t shovel at all, but for different reasons.

The libertarian believes that anything we do to help others will only enfeeble them, so we’re all better off just trudging through knee-deep drifts. Dependency is the enemy of evolution, so refusing to shovel lets all your neighbors know that you believe in science. The natural order of things must be affirmed. Spring follows winter. As they used to say in the Midwest, “The good Lord brought the stuff. Let the good Lord take it away.”

Socialists sit inside and hope somebody in the neighborhood buys a snowblower, which will make things easier for everyone. If everyone chips in to buy the snowblower’s gas, the problem solves itself. Have you ever seen a Scandinavian with a snow shovel? No, of course you haven’t. They probably heat the sidewalks there. That would be a good idea too. Somebody should look into that.

In 2008, a prominent liquor company surveyed 100 bartenders around Washington, DC to find out whether Republicans or Democrats were better tippers. Unlike tipping, sidewalk shoveling is a public act. The evidence can’t be hidden or erased, except by more weather.

Bartenders reported that Democrats tip better — probably because they believe that’s what good people should do.

→ No CommentsTags: DC · Deep · Grins · Psycho · Pure Pol · Quips

Explaining Oregon

January 22nd, 2016 · No Comments

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We all have friends who don’t understand Oregon. Most of us know lots of people who have never been to Oregon. Many have to use a process of elimination to find Oregon on a map. (“Oregon — it’s that space between California and Washington!”)

We’re not complaining. Part of the Oregon Mystique can only be attributed to being left alone by the rest of the country. Except for those traveling longitudinally — birds, mostly — we’re happy not being on the way to wherever it is they’re going.

Look at the interstate highway map. Once you get to junctions in Denver, Salt Lake City, or Butte, Montana, the system will point you south to Sacramento or north to Seattle. Only I-84 brings hurried easterners just barely into Oregon, skirting the state’s northern edge.

To the 45 states that don’t touch the Pacific Ocean, we’re the “you can’t get there from here” state. Good for us.

Unlike Iowa and New Hampshire, we have no interest in national election headlines. Oregon’s primary won’t be until May 17, but even then, television networks won’t send their camera crews here.

What would be they show on the news? People mailing letters that may or may not include their ballots? Couples sitting in their kitchens looking for blue or black pens? (“Honey, did you check the drawer near where there used to be a phone? And sweetheart, did you notice there’s a cameraman in our bushes?”)

No, we don’t work at getting the nation’s attention. People don’t know what to think about us, so usually they think nothing at all about us — and we’re fine with that.

But our invisibility cloak has been slipping lately.

Skip the mass shooting headlines. Those can happen anywhere — and, unfortunately, they do. Thurston in 1998, Roseburg in 2015 — maybe it was just our turn again. Those weren’t Oregon stories. They were gun stories.

But seeing a bunch of publicity-seeking ranchers commandeer a couple of buildings in the middle of sagebrush country south of Burns, that has Oregon written all over it.

We can tell people that the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is nowhere near Rancho Rajneesh, but all they’ll hear is “nowhere near,” because that’s what Oregon means to them.

The last time Oregon led the nightly news with anything that wasn’t a natural disaster, it was in the mid-1980s, when the Rajneeshees, a religious cult terrorized eastern Oregon by plotting assassinations, poisoning salad bars, and even running for city council seats.

People who move past the headlines know the Bundy-Hammond cabal are not Oregonians, but those Marlboro Country vistas they keep showing on the news — those are unmistakably Oregon. People watching can only assume from what they see that we tolerate crazy here because there’s plenty of room to stay out of its way.

Yes, but!

There’s dissonance, cognitive or otherwise., to be addressed. Last night began the sixth season of IFC’s cult-cable hit “Portlandia,” featuring Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, playing a cast of idiosyncratic urban characters.

So, “Which is the real Oregon?” America wants to know. The answer is important. Both.

There are not two Oregons. There’s only one Oregon. It contains urban and rural and very little in between. Other places allow them to melt from one to the other, separated by the shapeless liquid of suburbia.

Not here. We roll with full-scale rural, until we don’t — then it’s urban. We build cities that don’t peter out — they stop, wherever the line was drawn. Country mice and city mice are neighbors here, cheek to jowl.

Ranchers who look just like the Bundys keep a list of things they need and make regular provision runs into the nearest city. (Real Oregonians don’t plead for French vanilla creamer on Youtube.)

Hipsters cavort across our cities, just like on “Portlandia” — until they’ve had enough of people just like them and they need some time away. Then they grab a tent and head for the hills.

Each group crosses paths with the other. They might smile and nod as they pass one another, knowing we’ve got something here that no one else understands.

==

Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

→ No CommentsTags: Arr-Gee published · Civic · Deep · Media · Upper-Left-Edge · Urban Design

Celebrity, Voting and Gates

January 22nd, 2016 · No Comments

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American voters have sent only two celebrities to the White House in the past century. Dwight Eisenhower witnessed the end of World War II. Herbert Hoover watched the beginning of the Great Depression. Ronald Reagan had been an actor and California’s governor, but his was not a household name until his first presidential campaign.

State voter have occasionally elected somebody who’s larger than life. The results have been mixed. Arnold Schwarzenegger did well enough as governor of California to be elected twice. Jesse Ventura didn’t have as much success as governor of Minnesota.

But a presidential candidate, whose name everybody knows for reasons that have nothing to do with governing — that’s entirely new ground for every American voter who’s less than 80 years old. Ask anyone who remembers to compare Donald Trump and Dwight Eisenhower and you’ll get what you deserve.

Celebrity isn’t as easy to measure as wealth, so we don’t talk about it as easily. But that doesn’t mean that others haven’t paid it as much attention. Quite the opposite is true. Building a fortune isn’t nearly as hard as building a reputation. Just ask Bill Cosby.

In a world where media had gatekeepers, measuring celebrity usually just counted those who came through the gates. Companies and organizations grew around that expertise. Nielsen, Arbitron, and the Audit Bureau of Circulation monitored those gates for television, radio, and newspapers.

The celebrity of movie stars was even easier to gauge, because every audience member had to pay for a ticket to see them. (Few of Reagan’s movies did particularly well, and none succeeded because of his name.) Studios have always known which actors are reliable risks, based on tickets sold for previous projects.

Celebrity is changing in the modern era of social media and 24-hour news. A person’s influence can be measured in Twitter followers or Youtube viewings.

You’ve probably never heard of a Q-rating or Q-score, but it measures name recognition without regard for any of those gates. The measurement is not new, but it’s become more important as media outlets have proliferated.

But measuring celebrity hasn’t stopped with free-range Q-ratings. Now, for the first time, software designers can use algorithms to measure our twitches. Which videos are we choosing to watch? Which banner ads get us to click? Whose Academy Award gowns make us gawk?

These can all be measured now, and it’s going to get more and more precise. Hardware designers are busy right now adding cameras to all our devices to watch our eyes. Machines will attempt to learn what we’re thinking, even before we click. In other words, it will know what we want to do before we decide that we’d better not.

Why is this important? Because there’s just one gatekeeper left that mavens would like to get around. It’s you and me — guarding our tongue, controlling our desires, saying “No” to things we don’t want to want.

Once the machines and the marketers behind them know the things we don’t want to want, they can offer them to us again and again — until we can no longer resist. Once self control doesn’t seem worth the effort, there will be no more gates to be kept.

Lay that dystopian vision over a presidential campaign and you can see the hole we’re digging getting deeper. American poet Robert Frost despaired of this late in his life, almost 50 years ago, “Anymore people don’t think; they vote.”

Thinking is hard. Voting is easy. Shopping is even easier.

Which candidate makes us move, or — soon — think of moving? Whose ideas do we like? Which images slow us down or hurry us up? What do we want, even if we don’t want to want it? Who can give us that?

A presidential campaign is really nothing more than the most expensive and sophisticated product launch in the history of humanity. Whatever succeeds in selling a president in 2016 will somehow be used to sell a pizza in 2017. Likewise, whatever marketers have perfected in 2015 is being used by politicians right now.

How do we respond? Do we shop, vote, or think?

==

Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

→ No CommentsTags: arr-gee thumbnails · DC · Deep · Media · Psycho · Pure Pol

Trump, Hitler and Amplification

January 20th, 2016 · 1 Comment

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In 1920s Germany, a young man with a gift for oratory captivated his nation. Germans must have believed this man gave better speeches than any human who came before him, judging from the throngs of listeners shown on newsreels around the world. Listeners filled the streets, almost as far as the eye could see. The sea of humanity affirmed the speaker’s popularity, elevating it to near messianic levels.

Invisible to the cameras, a new technology made possible what had previously been impossible. The Nazi party pioneered the use of microphones and electronic amplification for public rallies, allowing an unlimited number of people to hear the words of Adolf Hitler.

But it wasn’t the oratory or the personality that enthralled the public. It was the modern magic of amplification. People saw with their own eyes something that seemed impossible — a crowd of people listening to a speaker who was almost a mile away. Into that gap between what seemed impossible and what no longer was impossible stepped Hitler.

Likewise, our 2016 presidential race features inexplicable popularity for candidates that experts long ago dismissed as unelectable — especially Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. If you detect a certain umbrage from those experts, it may be because they’ve lost their role as gatekeepers between the candidates and the public.

As households “cut the cord” from landline phones and broadcast television, the hegemony of news outlets has been disrupted. Candidates now can reach their audiences directly, no longer relying on editors and news anchors to get their story straight and into people’s living rooms.

Narrowcasting is not new, except for this. You may not have tuned into news channels and radio stations not targeted toward you, but you could. The intent may have been to narrowcast, but the broadcast technology itself hadn’t changed.

Narrowcasting’s most reliable vehicle, direct mail, was always expensive and cumbersome. In 2008, Obama pushed email’s capabilities to new lengths, but it was still direct mail — only cheaper and incessant.

This is different. A new mode of amplification has been invented, and our expectations have not yet adjusted. If Hitler had cupped his hands when he spoke, people might have believed he perfected the megaphone. Instead, he was doing something totally unknown, speaking to almost a million people at once.

Social media on smart phones gives candidates and supporters new powers that hadn’t been imagined only a few years ago. The results still seem impossible to us. Thousands line up around the block to attend rallies that other people have heard nothing about. Donations come from people who have never been involved before.

We have now what some would call a Kardashian Candidate — a celebrity who’s famous for being famous. We’ve sent an actor to the White House before, but never a celebrity. Only Dwight Eisenhower was a household name before he ran for public office, and that was because he led the Allied forces to victory in World War II.

You know celebrity has changed when a rat pulling a slice of pizza down a New York stairwell is watched by more people in a week than “60 Minutes.”

The media establishment can no longer protect voters from vanity candidates, flagrant falsehoods, and anything else that seems to lack presidential decorum. The parties themselves have lost leverage too. Trump is barely a Republican. Sanders is still not a Democrat.

Donald Trump draws huge crowds wherever he goes, as he constantly reminds everyone. He has more Twitter followers than most news anchors have viewers. He can drive media attention for two or three days with one strategic retweet and there’s nothing the media professionals can do to stop it.

Bernie Sanders speaks with refreshing candor that his presidency will be successful only if there’s a movement beneath and around him that upends the political status quo. He knows he can win only if he’s a guy with a microphone before most people understand what a microphone can do.

Every time a candidate does something that experts think is impossible, their success becomes less implausible.

==

Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) blogs at www.dksez.com.

→ 1 CommentTags: arr-gee thumbnails · Deep · Media · Psycho · Pure Pol · Simple

Political Rallies Should Belong to the People

January 15th, 2016 · 1 Comment

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We should have seen this coming. Political rallies are becoming scripted stage plays. We saw an early version of this strategy play out in Eugene over a decade ago. Since then, things have gotten progressively worse.

Last weekend, Rose Hamid, a 56-year-old flight attendant, was expelled from a South Carolina political rally for Donald Trump for standing in silent protest. A week ago, Trump kicked out a protester in New Hampshire with these words to his security detail: “Keep his coat. Confiscate his coat. You know, it’s about 10 degrees below zero outside. No, you can keep his coat. Tell him we’ll send it to him in a couple of weeks.” The audience laughed. Trump on Monday ejected one of his own supporters for heckling, “This is boring.”

Protester expulsions have become part of Trump’s strong-man act. Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson wrote, “If protesters didn’t show up, Trump would have to hire actors to play those parts.” Attendees are invited into the drama, using a coded chant if they spot a dissenter.

The charade builds the narrative that drives Trump’s campaign. He will handle anyone who disagrees with him, not bound by comity or so-called political correctness. If you wish you could act that way without suffering any consequences, get close to him. Trump will make you great (again).

I remember nothing at all about the first political rally I ever attended — except the security, such as it was.

My mother allowed me to take a half day off from first grade to see Richard Nixon’s campaign stop at an airport near our house. I remember two things from that cold Chicago afternoon. I remember trying to keep the waving man in the center of a diamond-shaped frame, as I peered through the chainlink fence. And I remember not knowing whether the fence was there to keep us out or to keep him in.

Candidates stopping in airports is nothing new, but the rules are being rewritten.

Perry Patterson heard that Dick Cheney was planning a quick campaign stop at the Eugene airport in 2004. She thought it odd that the event would require a ticket, and odder that the tickets were available only at the local Republican campaign office.

“I thought it was a city-sponsored event,” she told me this week.

The event location moved a few times, she recalls, but eventually everyone with a ticket was bussed out to Monaco Motor Coach’s hangar on airport property.

Cheney’s speech included this line, referring to the Iraq War’s toppling of Saddam Hussein: “This administration has made the world a safer place.” Patterson describes her reaction as an out-of-body experience.

“I just said, ‘No!’ I may have said it more than once,” she recalled. “I was feeling like everybody was being led to a slaughter. You just want to stop that.”

Patterson, who hadn’t attended the event with any intent to disrupt it, was quickly surrounded by security personnel. She had a ticket just like everybody else, but was charged with trespassing. Charges eventually were dropped, but only after more than a year of legal headaches.

Some would like to see publicly financed political campaigns, but maybe that’s asking for too much. As long as money and speech are equated, money will find its way into political campaigns, however circuitous we make its path.

What we really need is publicly financed campaign rallies. People want their voices heard by the candidates seeking their vote. Isn’t that the deal? If the 2004 event had nonpartisan security, Patterson’s interruption of Vice President Cheney’s speech would have been handled appropriately by local authorities.

Allowing candidates to marginalize protesters hurts everyone. Dissent and compromise are scripted out of campaigns, leaving voters and candidates alike ill prepared for the rigor of divided government.

Patterson doesn’t watch TV, but she did see a Youtube clip of Hamid’s protest. Things have gotten worse since 2004. Security personnel overreacted, but none of the people around her expressed any anger toward her. But Trump’s events seem to encourage a mob mentality.

Patterson sighed, “We have to keep our humanity.”

==

Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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The Awesome Power of Mercy

January 8th, 2016 · No Comments

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We all think about resolutions in January. Most of the changes we contemplate are less than earth-shattering, but the world seems to be shattering on its own this time around, so that got me thinking bigger.

There are people who would benefit from a huge change this year, and there’s one person who can resolve on his own to give them that.

The United States Constitution gives President Obama precious few imperial powers — checks and balances were the order of the day — but it does give him one, lifted straight from England’s Prerogative of Kings, without modification:

Article II, Section 2: “The President shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.”

The framers of our constitution debated changes and limits, but in the end the delegates decided it needed none. They gave the president the same power that King George III had — in order to express with utmost clarity our nation’s character and courage.

The world longs for such clarity and courage right now.

Obama has nattered around the edges of justice reform for a couple of years. Racial disparities in drug laws and capital punishment have caught his attention. In November, Obama instructed federal agencies to “ban the box” that asked all applicants if they’ve ever been convicted of a crime.

But the presidential pardon is completely different. It’s not designed as a tool to temper government policy. It’s a display of the awesome power of mercy, for all the world to see — no checks, no balances.

President Washington pardoned the perpetrators of the Whiskey Rebellion. It quelled the fracas immediately. President Carter pardoned everyone who evaded the draft during the Vietnam War, and approximately 100,000 criminals were forgiven and welcomed home. No president since has used his power so sweepingly.

Obama could pardon every federal inmate and parolee named Phil — without explaining why. That would send a strong message to the world, but it would also reunite families and help a bunch of guys named Phil.

I called Paul Solomon, Executive Director of Sponsors Inc. He works every day with felons who are trying to get their lives back on track after leaving prison.

What if President Obama surprised everyone by inserting into his State of the Union speech that all federal convictions for marijuana possession would be erased? Or that all federal felons who have served their time and completed parole will be pardoned, rewinding their history and expunging their record?

“That would be phenomenal!” Solomon told me. “And sensible, too.”

“Look at crime rates, because that’s what really matters to people,” Solomon said. “Since 1969, those rates have stayed roughly the same. But our incarceration rate over that period has more than quadrupled. What does that tell you?”

It tells me we can combat terror much closer to home. The latest figures show that 27 percent of all Americans now have a criminal history. In an age of electronic records, there’s no hope those histories will be forgotten — unless they’re forgiven.

Solomon had more statistics to share from his work: “Studies have shown that if a person with a criminal history stays out of trouble for five years, their chance of committing another crime is the same as somebody who has never been in trouble.”

Obama could order a sweeping reform, with no due process. If he pardoned every felon who was released in 2010 or earlier and has had no criminal activity since, that would put tens of thousands of upstanding citizens back on the voter roles.

US federal prisons currently hold 205,000 inmates in 122 facilities. The White House could simply require each warden to immediately name ten inmates who no longer belong behind bars, plus another 90 who deserve their reprieve before Obama leaves office. How would releasing six percent of that bloated population affect inmate behavior and morale?

Obama cannot stop every brutal beheading, but he can set some captives free. We gave one person that power. Alexander Hamilton called it a display of “humanity and good policy.” Obama should use it, for all the world to see.

==

Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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De-Design Ducks’ Dismal Defense

January 8th, 2016 · 1 Comment

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Comedian Jerry Seinfeld asked President Obama what sport is most comparable to politics. Seinfeld suggested liar’s poker or chess. Obama complimented him on the question, then gave a surprising answer: football.

There are many players involved, specialization is rewarded, hitting is common, so is punting. “But every once in a while, you’ll see a hole. And then there’s open field.” Sometimes football is a lot like life. Other times, it’s only like football. This is one of those other times.

Here’s what we’ve learned about fast break football since Chip Kelly was hired as the Ducks’ offensive coordinator in 2007. It can become the foundation for a nearly successful team, excelling in offense but barely keeping up on defense.

Fast breaks work in basketball because the same five players play both offense and defense. Football is a platoon sport, Charles Nelson notwithstanding. (But ask yourself, “Who can withstand Charles Nelson?”)

Kelly installed his system in Eugene, and since in Philadelphia, with the same result. The Ducks and the Eagles this year each had dismal defensive statistics. As the Ducks rearrange their coaching ranks, admitting this half-mistake should shape more than how they recruit a new defensive coordinator.

When the Ducks replaced criss-crossed metal reinforcement pattern on their uniform’s shoulder pads with various wing patterns, they proclaimed “this is who we are.”

Our players are taught to “fly to the ball”, which is great when there’s a fumble or an errant pass, but not when the ball is in the hands of an opposing player, fully capable of changing speed or direction after a Duck has committed to flight.

A human projectile relies on steady state forces to anticipate its target’s exact location at impact. Once airborne, no changes can be accommodated. Result: missed tackle.

If the Ducks hope to win a national championship, they must match their unstoppable forces with a healthy number of immovable objects.

As Kelly’s zone-read offense has gained popularity, word’s gotten out how to defend against it. That word is patience. Stanford Cardinal coaches were some of the first to teach their linemen to stand their ground and wait for the ball. Don’t go get the ball; just guard your turf. If the ball doesn’t move past you, the defense has prevailed. It was the opposite of “fly to the ball” — and it worked.

A running quarterback with three options must eventually choose one to move the ball past the line of scrimmage. If that line is guarded by a series of defenders, evenly spaced like huge, grinning clothespins, there are no gaps for the offense to exploit.

With patience and discipline, defending the sweep runs becomes as simple as, “Red rover, red rover, let Duckie come over.” Good coaching makes difficult assignments easy, but Duck defenders haven’t been built for success.

We heard incessantly this season about “communication issues” and “missed assignments.” Duck practices have been closed in recent years, so a coach’s analysis may not match a fan’s. But it likely means that a player got overeager, tried too hard, and impatiently left his ground undefended.

Maybe — and this is my point, slowly delivered — team practices built around speed cannot properly teach patience. A team with wings on its shoulders doesn’t naturally stand its ground. Swagger on defense leads to open field for opponents.

We’ve recruited for wingspan, finding and developing players that other schools have overlooked. But now we need some players who will provide pure width. We may have to tweak the “Oregon Way” in order to attract enough of those wide-bodied players.

Whatever those changes look like should be personified in the defensive coordinator the Ducks hire. Nick Aliotti was colorful and fun to quote, raising the profile of the team’s defenders. Start there.

Loud music and speedy reps sound like fun for the young speedsters on the team, but when do the immovable objects get their chance to learn what stalwart looks like? Is there some way to mix the high flying, “can’t touch this” Ducks we’ve enjoyed for the past decade with the “Gang Green” defensive juggernaut that succeeded at scrimmage in the mid-1990s?

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